"To (L)Earn Their Place in Society:
In the late nineteenth century, off-reservation boarding schools became the instrument of choice for the United States federal government to assimilate Indigenous communities. By separating Native American children from their families and placing them in government-operated schools, white officials hoped to transform them culturally, politically, and economically. Although the system was reformed in the early 1930s, boarding schools continued to promote assimilation for several more decades. In fact, white officials even developed new methods to assimilate young Native Americans, including the use of substitute currency, or scrip, as a form of economic training. One of the first off-reservation schools to adopt a scrip system was Sherman Institute in Riverside, California. In November of 1933, school administrators introduced a system of paper money to teach the school’s Native American pupils about life in a capitalist society. Through an analysis of scrip, this essay explores what Indigenous students at Sherman Institute learned about capitalism during the 1930s. Specifically, the article analyzes how the scrip system replicated the US economy with individual consumption at its center in an effort to communicate specific values, and how Indigenous students navigated said system. Thus, this essay argues that administrators at Sherman Institute used scrip to transform school life in a flawed attempt to present an idealized form of consumption-based capitalism to young Native Americans.